Sunday, June 04, 2017

Remembering Brooke Robinson

It took just two words for the students in the East Middle School cafeteria to receive the reaction they wanted from the fresh-faced redheaded girl who was walking toward them.

"Hey, Brooke."

The words, the students had discovered long ago, brought an immediate smile to the girl's face.

It was a smile that could light up a room.

It is that smile that Brooke Robinson's friends are remembering as they prepare to say a much-too-soon goodbye to a girl who was only slightly more than a month from becoming a teenager when she was killed in an accident on Shoal Creek May 29.

Brooke was preparing to enter her eighth grade year at East. She was named to the cheerleading squad and had recently returned from the Little Miss Cheer Camp where she and the rest of the cheerleading squad bonded, shared good times and did the silly things that pre-teen girls like to do.

Brooke's friends have been remembering those silly things in Facebook posts since the news spread through the community.

Memories of Snapchats, Face Time conversations, and Brooke's love of all things junk food from pop tarts to candy to Chik Fil A were interspersed with recollections of cheer camp, school, and track.

As always, with the memories that come to the surface when someone who was such a vital part of people's lives is suddenly taken, people share wistful memories of plans that were made, but can never happen.

In a Facebook post, Brooke's cheerleading teammate, Brittany Shryock, expressed such a thought. "I wish we had the time to hang out and spend the night with each other like we had planned."

Though her family and her school life were filled with happy memories, Brooke Robinson's life was not without challenges.

Brooke was only six years old, nearing the end of her first grade year at Eastmorland when she faced a reality that no child should ever have to face.

Brooke and her family, parents Jay and Mackenzie Robinson and older sister Taylor, then a seventh grader at East, were enjoying a family weekend at Grand Lake on May 22, 2011, when the music on the radio was replaced by bulletins of a storm that was tearing through Joplin.

When the Robinson family returned to Joplin, they found their home had been one of those that had fallen victim to the deadliest tornado to hit the United States in six decades.

Brooke's sister Taylor remembered, "My room was completely gone. I had nothing left. Broken pieces of my belongings were scattered across the floor and the lawn. My sister's room was crushed. Pile after pile of debris, some walls and bedroom furniture. The kitchen, living room, bathrooms, my parents' room and all of the other rooms in the house had all of the contents scattered and destroyed."

The close-knit Robinson family supported each other through the next months and Brooke played a key role.

Taylor's friend Lydia Routledge remembers that time. "The Robinson family had to stay with Mackenzie's mom until their house was rebuilt. Due to lack of space, Brooke and Taylor had to share a room. This meant that sleepovers with Taylor now affected Brooke. I remember Brooke having such a great attitude about everything. She was more than happy to sleep on the couch or in her parents' bed so that Taylor could have a friend over."

The great attitude that helped Brooke and her family come back stronger after the Joplin Tornado continued to shine through the next six years.

"The last time I spent time with Brooke," Lydia said, "was a couple weeks ago at their house. We were all swimming. The whole day Brooke was goofing around with us and making us laugh. She was always either saying or doing something hilarious. She was always a light in my day."

The painful process of saying goodbye to Brooke Robinson begins today with a visitation from 2 to 4 p.m. at Parker Mortuary, with funeral services scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at St. Paul's United Methodist Church.

Brooke's friends continue to deal with her passing by posting photos of their friend, a smile always gracing her face, and sharing their memories.

Their friend is gone far too soon, but her smiles will last an eternity.

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